Balloons

Name ID 1198

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Busemeyer, Karl Ludwig (Mucky) Log-Book about an Airship-Expedition to Tanzania
Page Number: 02
Extract Date: 1934


Even the Birds

"... Out of the softening sunset came the airship, and the manner of its moving was beautiful. Few inanimate objects attain beauty in the persuance of their courses, and yet, to me, at least, the flight of the ship was far lovelier than the swooping of a bird or the jumping of a horse. For it seemed to carry with it a calm dignity and a conscious- ness of destiny which ranked it among the wonders of time itself..."

Extract ID: 5046

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Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 066
Extract Date: 1962

The balloon expedition

The balloon expedition had money to achieve its aims, but not an excess of it Therefore we tapped every likely source, and borrowed equipment wherever possible. To avoid repetition in letters, and to give somewhat more dignity to the enterprise, we printed a single page outlining the intentions. It detailed our purpose, our plans, our names, our procedure, and our support. It was extremely successful, and equipment began to accumulate. So we printed a four-page circular, and then an eight-page synopsis. They stated, among much else, that we intended to travel to Africa equipped with a balloon, and to make a number of captive and free flights from Zanzibar in the east to the Serengeti plains of Tanganyika in the west throughout January to March 1962.

Extract ID: 3736

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Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Page Number: 171

The balloon ride had been a success

A month after they were married Alan was invited to join Douglas Botting and Anthony Smith, two BBC producers, on a hydrogen balloon expedition across East Africa. When Alan asked Armand Denis for a leave of absence to help out the two Englishmen, Denis fired him on the spot. "It was a bit rough for Joan," Alan admits today. "She obviously thought she had backed a loser."

The balloon was called Jambo, and every launching led to an adventure. From the island of Zanzibar they crossed to the mainland and floated across much of Tanzania, with an unforgettable drift over Alan's beloved Serengeti. Their last ascent was an exhibition for a large crowd of aviation buffs at the Nairobi Airport. Egged on by the pretty girls, the balloonists unwisely lifted off in a high wind. To avoid an RAF squadron just ahead they had to throw out most of their ballast in the first few minutes of flight and by the time they were over the Ngong Hills they had little left and were virtually out of control. They hit the peaks three times and on the third impact Alan was pitched forward from the basket, his head smashing against a stone, then hauled back in as the balloon climbed to ten thousand feet. At this altitude the balloon leveled off and then started to descend, faster and faster. The three balloonists frantically heaved out the remaining ballast, then their lunch, the first-aid kit and finally their personal belongings. They were left with only the precious camera equipment, and just as Alan was throwing out film, battery, a telephoto lens, the basket smashed through a thorn tree and hit the ground. Alan looked around. No one was dead. The balloon ride had been a success.

Extract ID: 4159

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Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 182
Extract Date: 1962

400 feet up, and quite motionless

'Hands off once more.'

The wind carried us, but parallel to the ground.

'On again,' and fifteen pairs of Wambulu hands brought the basket to a stop, which is more than happened to the Wambulu talk. The chatter, about whether or not, and why and how, the balloon would rise was no momentary curiosity. It had continued unceasingly since Douglas had turned on the gas, and was now reaching a fanatic crescendo. One man stopped, for a second or two, as I poured 5 Ib. of sand on to his feet, and then Bill shouted again.

'Toa mkono. Hands off.'

The 5 Ib. had been enough. We rose, almost vertically to begin with, and the trail rope uncoiled as we went. I remember seeing Bill's small child catching hold of a still dormant section of it. I shouted something, and then watched that same section flick mercifully out of his hands. By then we were out of shouting distance, and another flight had begun. It was at this sort of stage that Douglas would push whatsoever cap he had on further to the back of his head and make some general observational point, like: 'Well, we made it.'

Indeed, we had made it, but away from the crater. At the end of ten minutes we were about a mile from the crater's lip, and 400 feet up, and quite motionless.

Extract ID: 3754

See also

Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 183a
Extract Date: 1962

I threw out no sand

.. .. Despite that manoeuvre with the trail-rope and our initial stabilization at only 400 feet, we next began to rise quite steadily, though keeping station over one huge pillar tree all the while. Douglas was vexed at seeing the land recede further and further from him, and screwed longer and longer lenses to his cameras; but there was nothing else that could be done. Anyway, those clouds above us were moving in the right direction, crater-wards, and we would surely go that way once we had risen to then height. As I had no intention of going higher than need be and of making certain that we caught the very bottom of that airstream, I threw out no sand. The present tendency to rise would get us there in the end. This was inevitable, for the more we climbed that day, the more the sun shone upon us. There must have been a mist down there above the trees, or at least a greater and invisible humidity of the air, for as we rose the sun grew hotter and the air became brighter. The hydrogen responded to this increased radiation and expanded accordingly. So, with the launch site still in view, but becoming increasingly fuzzy as time ticked by, we rose with all the simplicity in the world above that incredible view.

Extract ID: 3755

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Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 184a
Extract Date: 1962

We arrived over Ngorongoro

Down below, our dot of a shadow then began moving towards the crater. It danced over the big forest trees; it went more gently over the open grassy zones. Then it crossed that rugged rim road and took no time to cover the remaining stretch before the wall began. Down it slid, over trees, and rocky buttresses, and steep slopes. Down to the gentler gradients, and then more slowly over the crater floor itself. Without so much as a puff of wind on our faces, we had in ten minutes made in the air a journey that would have taken a mere pedestrian on the ground many hours. We had arrived over Ngorongoro.

It may have been like tobogganing for our shadow, but for us it was nothing of the sort. Our shadow had leapt down to the crater floor and had become even more of a pin-head in doing so, but we had continued at the same old height where we had met the airstream from the east. We were still 10,500 feet above sea level, while the shadow was now over a mile below.

This was aerial observation of animals to some degree, but not the one we wanted. It was like examining pond water before the days of the microscope. We had to take a rather closer look. Allowing for the direction of the sun, I waited until the shadow indicated we were some g miles within the crater. Then I pulled for three seconds on the valve line, and almost at once a breeze pushed past our faces. At 300 feet a minute we made our descent. It was fast, and roughly the speed of a parachutist, but we had plenty of time to watch the changing shapes of that remarkable piece of geography. The flatness beneath us became steadily less so, and the distant hills sank like so many setting suns behind the crater wall. After nearly 10 minutes, and when 1,000 feet above the ground, I threw out two hands of sand to break the fall. Later I threw out two more, and once again we were poised a mere 400 feet above the world.

We hovered momentarily over the general swampy area around the Goitokitok spring, and had a look at some hippos walking through the reeds. Over to the west and south were the main herds of animals, but over to the west and south we did not go. We stayed over those reeds for a very short time, and then retained in the general direction from whence we had come. The only difference was our height. This time the crater wall was not a diminutive thing thousands of feet below, but a huge tree covered mountain coming our way. It seemed that the arena all around us was being heated by the sun, and the air was expanding up its sides. We were certainly in an airstream that was moving up the wall, for shortly afterwards, with no sand-throwing by me, we were ascending that face like a funicular. The huge mossy trees were 50 feet below, and less than 50 feet to one side. John rattled off their names whenever the bigger ones bulged up towards us, and Douglas did what he could with a countryside that had suddenly stood on edge. I was not flying the balloon in any active sense. I was just bemused by watching a 2,000-foot wall disappear beneath us.

At the top, with the trail rope still searing at the trees which had just passed by, we slid over the rim and the rim road at a casual 20 miles an hour. Thereafter, never more than a hundred feet above the ground, we descended still eastwards over the gender slope that led away from the crater's edge. We were too low to see anything of the ground party, and so looked out instead for animal life. I think all of us saw the buffaloes at the same time, and all said 'Look!' together. I heard the camera click while they were still lolling on their backs, and then every one of them leapt to its feet. With a great crashing of the undergrowth and of everything standing in their way, they set off at a mild gallop.

For some reason, possibly because it was downhill, they ran directly beneath us. They were head to tail and, like so many express trains, moved through the tangle below. Each file of animals, each set of carriages, took its own independent path, but frequently the files converged upon each other. Fresh files formed, with nothing more than a rending and a breaking as bushes were swept before the chaise.

'Keep after them,' said Douglas, 'this is excellent stuff,' and we did, miraculously, keep after them for a full two minutes. Then they verged away, and we were left in silence once again.

Extract ID: 3757

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Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 186
Extract Date: 1962

We hit the ground

It was while we were thinking we would go directly over three elephants standing by a pool, and while still at 100 feet, that a powerful thermal took hold of the balloon with all its might Instantly, the trail rope was flicked up beneath us as we soared into the sky. This was no gentle rise, as we had known over Manyara. This was far more drastic. In perhaps a minute we were 3,000 feet above those trees and those now invisible elephants. Above us was the familiar base of a thunder-cloud, and this time there would be no dallying beneath it. This time we would be in it, if strong counter-measures were not taken.

I pulled for five seconds on the valve line. We still went up. I pulled for another five, and once again we heard the slight sucking sound as the gas went out. The balloon was now distinctly pouchy at the bottom, but we were still rising, and over 9,000 feet above sea-level. I pulled for another five, and watched the bottom panels withdraw inwards again as the gas rushed out of the top. At last the altimeter showed we were rising no more, but the air of the thermal still blew past us. I remember John taking some silver paper off a piece of chocolate, and then having that paper blown vertically out of his hand. All the time, for we were stationary in a strong current, we rocked about like any dinghy in a choppy sea.

'What happens when we get out of this thermal?' asked John, who hit nails on heads with disarming ease.

'We shall go down, fast,' I replied.

'Very fast,' I added, a few seconds later as the bucketing increased.

'Uh-huh,' said Douglas.

Sure enough, the thermal did move itself elsewhere. Then, dropping like any stone, we achieved a speed of descent I had never known before. There was no time to read an instrument. What did it matter if it were two or three thousand feet per minute? To hit the ground at either speed would be equally fatal. John and I bailed out sand in great dollops at a time. Then half sackfulls. Then more dollops, and more fumbling around in the bottom of the basket for more sacks. Our speed slackened slightly, but we couldn't just throw everything overboard. To have been excessive with that sand would surely have sent us up towards the thunder-cloud again, with every opportunity of repeating the episode, and with far less chance of having enough sand afterwards, to break the second plummet-like fall. Yet to be parsimonious with the sand was equally uncalled for. I think this will have to be the landing,' I said. 'Right,' said Douglas, and went on filming.

'More sand, John. Yes, that's right. Now more, yes the rest of that sack. Get up another. Now wait with it. Hold it ready. Yes, tip out half, and now the rest. Yes, this is the landing. Douglas, this is it.'

And down we went. This was no occasion for choosing a spot. The trail rope must have touched the ground just as we were reaching the tallest trees. I do not know how we missed them. We seemed to be going where a tree had fallen. I could see its long trunk lying there. And its upturned roots. And then it was time to rip. But there wasn't time. Because we hit the ground, and stayed there.

Extract ID: 3760

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Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 187b
Extract Date: 1962

Cassipourea elliottii. - no spikes

The balloon had not toppled over, and the three of us were standing there quite over-towered by plants. I pulled at the rip, but the rope just came down in my hands. Soon its end came, showing where it had torn free from the rubber fabric. Why, I had no idea. It meant we had a three-quarters full balloon, swaying back and forth at the branches above us, 'John, what's that tree? Is it spiky?'

'Oh, that! Good Lord, no! Not a spike on it. That's Cassipourea elliottii. Certainly no spikes.'

Puncture material or not, that tree was not doing the balloon any good as the two of them were blown at each other. So I attached a rope from the basket to the fallen tree beside it, and then felt everything was sufficiently safe for me to climb out. The other two stayed in as ballast while I had a look at the situation from somewhere better than the neck-creaking angle of the basket's viewpoint. A soup plate leaf touched my arm, and thousands of vegetative ampules injected their contents into me. It was a nettle patch of immense size in which we had landed. It was also a major highway for ants, and their formic acid produced its own even sharper sensation when they rammed it home. Consequently, John and Douglas did not see a man coolly taking stock of an awkward situation. Instead, they caught glimpses of flailing limbs which lashed out from the green depths of that poisonous neighbourhood.

At least I had seen that there was nothing else to be done except pull on the valve line. It was the only way of losing the gas. I had thought it might be possible to reach the valve itself from higher up the bank, but the ant-nettle combination had reduced enthusiasm for that plan. So we pulled on it steadily, and gradually Jambo began to sink towards the earth.

We were, when everything had been collapsed, spread out on one steep slope with an audible but invisible stream somewhere at the bottom. The three of us cut down clubs with which to clout those nettles, and folded up the balloon and net as best we could while suffering the various slings and arrows of the environment. It was a very real piece of forest. There were no animal tracks, and even the buffaloes had let it be. It was impossible to move without thwacking down everything that stood in the way. It was also fairly difficult even to stand up, for the earth that supported all this growth was a rich, humus-laden mud. In short, our cavortings in the air were as nothing compared with those manoeuvres on the ground. However, in the end, everything did get stacked inside the basket, and we were ready to leave. We had only a vague idea of our position, but we knew that the rim road was somewhere up the slope.

Extract ID: 3762

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Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 188b
Extract Date: 1962

Safari Balloon Crashed!

What we most certainly did not know was an event taking place at Karatu. Fifteen miles away an African clerk from a treasury office had solitarily witnessed our descent. He had considered with remarkable accuracy, that not everything had been under control. In his opinion, and he had cause for it, the landing could best be defined as a crash. So with, all haste, he had rushed into the Karatu Police Station to tell his story. He had told it pungently, but he had garnished it to excess. It was all very well to call a landing a crash, for only the expert balloonist's eye could tell the difference - particularly at 15 miles, but it was utterly wrong of him to add that we had exploded. The Police Officer then set the various wires humming, and reported the matter to Arusha and the capital. 'Safari Balloon Crashed. Loud Bang Reported. Balloon Seen To Explode. Fate of Crew Unknown.'

The message went out shortly after I had failed to get at the valve, from the bank, and had been more interested in the fate of the ants still alive within my trousers than in our own. By the time the balloon had been folded up, three lorry loads of 'Special Force' constables were on their way to the area from the provincial headquarters. A room had been prepared at the Arusha hospital for three. The Civil Aviation authorities had advised pilots flying over the district to keep a look-out for wreckage. In brief, that one African observer, that one teller of a very tall tale, had had his message flashed to every relevant corner of the administration, and many more besides. After all, 'exploded' is a powerful word, and he had used it convincingly.

The broadcasting units helped to spread his story, and soon it was common knowledge. However, there were three people who were most gloriously ignorant of it. They were just bashing away, in turn, at nettles and thorns and shrubs and creepers, while trying to carve a path up the slope. When they did stop to wonder, they never dreamed for a moment of what in fact was occurring. Instead, they reserved all their curiosity for wondering where on earth they were.

Extract ID: 3764

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Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 198
Extract Date: 1962

what had happened?

On the following day 3, passing truck brought us our mail. .. ..

The letters were far more disturbing. That one treasury clerk had a lot to answer for. The story of the crash, and then the customary newspaper practice of printing minute denials, had caused many repercussions. People wanted to know what had happened, why the gas had exploded, whether the balloon had been at fault, whether it was true that we were uninjured, and if this was some form of cover story to conceal the real one. There was also news from Nairobi that the compressor situation was not as well as it should be, and from Arusha that the transport firm would not be able to collect our cylinders from the Saleh site, now that rain had fallen there. In short, it was time that I paid another visit to town. It is excellent living under a fig-tree but, administratively, it has its drawbacks.

Extract ID: 3766

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Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 248


Extract ID: 4146

See also

Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 250
Extract Date: 1962

Anticipation

Conditions were ideal, but that made them seem all the more slender and tenuous. Any change would make them less ideal and the flight more chancy. Any puff of wind was to be dreaded. Anything and everything was suspect, Kiari laid out a meal. My stomach, as disloyal as ever, accepted only some of it. Later, even that was rejected. One's body is a mixture of extremely independent parts, each voicing discontent or abnegation in its own particular fashion. I decided that sleep was the least I could do for the constricted bits of me, and joined the others in their cocoons of sleeping-bags. The alarm clock, an anomalous thing in that desolate spot, had been set for 4 a.m.

Extract ID: 3781

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Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 252
Extract Date: 1962

Inflation is a thing of wonder.

Sitting there in that most welcome sun of early morning, sipping the hot drink, feeling it seep down, and casting happy glances towards the secure balloon was extremely pleasant. The fear of what might happen still existed, but everything was safe for the time being. The sky was clear. The day was calmer than any we had known on those plains. The coffee produced a sense of wellbeing that only coffee can.

It was at 7.30 that we attached the basket. This was done with a simplicity not equalled before on the trip, and soon the whole balloon was towering high above us. I have said before that it ended up 55 feet tall, but the repetition may be necessary because each time its dimensions took me by surprise. Between every flight, when its entire substance was packed into that diminutive basket, memory of the balloon shrank with it. The subsequent inflation was always a thing of wonder.

Even when everything was ready, the air was still so calm that I decided to try some captive flights. These had only been barely possible on the previous African trips, and quite impossible at Nairobi; but on the Serengeti the ground crew attached the trail rope to a car for safety, and then let the balloon rise to 200 feet. I had a selection of the helpers on board, and together we looked for and pointed out animals in sight. It was indeed a superb lookout point. It was also not a problem going up and down. One man on the ground could have done it, but everyone in fact pulled on the rope to bring us back to earth, mainly I think to try and sharpen the bump. I took on fresh passenger batches, and each time tried to spot more animals from that 360-degree viewpoint. Eventually the day began to stir as the sun warmed it up. It was time to go. The breeze had come to carry us over the herd.

When at Zanzibar, and to a varying extent on the subsequent flights, we had been ready to depart, we had just departed. Without so much as a handshake, we had taken off as soon as we could, while the necessary civilities were forgotten in the general anxiety. Zanzibar had been the most ill mannered, for hundreds of people had helped us there, and thousands had turned up to watch; but all they got was an abrupt wave from a couple of hundred feet. So, on the Serengeti, and with a slender handful of observers, we at last managed to effect a leave-taking that was polite. A balloon's departure should, at the very least, not affront the people on the ground. Douglas and Alan and I shook hands with Joan and Kiari. We then did the same with the lorry teams, and with the gang from Olduvai. No one else knew it, but justice was at last being done to Zanzibar. Jambo could now take off.

Extract ID: 3783

See also

Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 253a
Extract Date: 1962

Serengeti Flight

It was also the best departure of the series, and so it should have been. It was not Etten, with its churches, poplars and chimneys. It was not Manyara, with its yellow thorn trees, nor Birmingham, nor the lip of Ngorongoro, nor Nairobi, nor any hazardous spot; but the Serengeti, with its eternity of open land leading away downwind. Up we went, with the trail rope on the ground, and then stabilized at 300 feet - another record. The wind up there was about 5 knots, and very nice it was. I decided to fly as I had never flown before, by giving 100 per cent attention to the instruments. I saw no reason for any repetition, however small by comparison, of that leapfrogging over the Ngongs and beyond. As soon as either the altimeter or the variometer gave a flicker of a movement downwards, I would trickle out a little sand. I would let no momentum build up. I would fly on as even a keel as could possibly be arranged. Admittedly, this should always be the aim, but from Nairobi it had been impossible. Very quickly we had been forced into the relatively crude business of throwing out half sacks at a time, and then of cannoning into the ground.

On that early Serengeti morning things were different. When sand went overboard it was in half handfuls or less, and the flight started off with a finesse never achieved before. The first animals below us were Thomson's gazelles, slightly frightened initially, but soon quite calm. They stopped their trotting and turned to have a look at us. A rhino, 50 yards away, next saw us, but did not raise his tail. Then a hyena, sitting by its hole, moved off straight beneath us and trotted along at our speed. We could hear the grass rustling as its furry body brushed past, and I scattered some sand on its back as we started coming too near. The intention was to travel no lower than 200 feet and no higher than 300: the range in between was optimum.

As the flight progressed a measure of confidence in ballooning began to return. There was no ocean span to cross, no jungle ahead, no distraught airstream; and it was still the calm of the morning. Well to the east of us were the Ngorongoro Highlands, now shrouded in cloud, and obviously a place where trouble could be expected, A few miles in their direction was the great crack of the Olduvai Gorge, a dry and arid scar across the ground. Beneath were the animals and the moon-shaped barkan, those Shifting Sands where we had spent that infantile afternoon. They had zebras cropping the grass near them, and a herd of eland further away. These big antelopes are the most timid of the lot, allegedly because they know their meat is prized. Some are being husbanded in captivity as an alternative to beef, and even from our height we could see the heavy folds of flesh. Those below us were wild, but every member of the species, whether being fattened or not, always seems to have plenty of meat on board. Their long twisted horns reaching back over their necks must have saved them again and again. I looked down for too long and had to throw out sand hastily, for a descent had begun to build up.

Extract ID: 3784

See also

Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 254
Extract Date: 1962

Ballooning over the wildebeests

After an hour of travelling, and a mounting concern about the big herd which lay ahead, we first caught glimpses of it. The sight was astounding. I had never imagined the world could be quite so full of animals. To begin with, they appeared as a kind of blur, with dust rising above them all. Then the blur changed to specks, and the dust columns rose higher into the air. Then the specks changed into individual forms, some galloping, some quite still, until the whole horizon in our path was full of them. Our point of aim had been perfect. We were due, sudden contrary winds permitting, to go over the very centre of that vast animal concourse.

Alan and Douglas made everything ready with their cameras. I arranged the remaining sacks conveniently at my feet, and promised a stable run over the herd. We were much too involved to be particularly happy, or rather to show that we were; but everything was going exceptionally well. I dropped the height down to less than 200 feet, and the tip of the trail rope began to touch the ground. There was an occasional brief tugging as it went straight over a solitary tree, but the trees were rare and becoming rarer. The herd was in an open place, and there was nothing but a few drying water-holes, the slender traces of dust, and those thousands upon thousands of animals. Meanwhile, for the sun was in the east behind the balloon, our shadow moved steadily ahead of us, and showed the way. It moved over the ground like some giant amoeba, undulating slightly at the edges with the unevenness of the earth, and then pushing out a pseudopodium as it climbed up one side of an isolated rise in the ground. It became an exceedingly sensitive form of altimeter, for the eye is good at appreciating whether something is growing or shrinking before it. So I stared at that shadow leading us towards the herd, and threw out sand accordingly.

At last we came near, and as we did so an immensity of noise came up towards us. I had listened to that congregation on the ground, but when heard from the air it was far more deafening. The nasal grunts of the wildebeest were strung together so continuously that it sounded as if a swarm of buzzing bees had dropped their note an octave or two. It was a raucous vibration coming from everywhere. It was the real noise of a migration on the move, not the half-hearted imitation of it we had heard when on the ground. It was one mighty impulse. It was a herd, and it was careering, walking, eating, and galloping on its way. It was magnificent.

The shadow cut clean through animals, so to speak, and they disregarded it. The zebras. Tommies, Grants, and wildebeest were all the same. The sudden blotting out of the sun by the sharpness of our form caused no reaction. We might as well not have been there, but for the fact that we spoke. This made them aware of us. It seemed silly to us, assuming stealth when so blatantly visible, and assuming quiet when the whole earth is pulsing with a remarkable din. So we spoke, more out of enthusiasm than with any intent to say a message; but we did speak, and the animals heard us. The group immediately below frisked up their tails and cantered off in the idiotic heel-kicking manner of the wildebeest. We experimented with other groups. If we were quiet, all was well; but if we talked, we were instantly overheard, despite the din.

Extract ID: 3786

See also

Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 255
Extract Date: 1962

the flight had to come to a stop

Having learnt this lesson, we respected its findings and remained silent. This was easy, for there was plenty to observe and too much to say. The whole sight was so magical. To both sides there were ten miles of animals. To the front of us, and to the back, there were thousands of them. And above them all we floated with the simplicity that only a balloon can possess, provided the air is calm and the African day is young. Of course, it was growing older all the time, and we were soon beginning to realize it. My job was becoming steadily more difficult, and that nice constant height of 200 feet was becoming exceptional rather than the rule. However, to begin with, this meant only more attention by me, and the general photography and observation was still well under control.

Towards the end of the herd, when its flanks were behind us to the left and right, and when only a few animals remained in front, we were pleased to note that a water-hole was certain to pass directly beneath us. It was nearly dry, but some wildebeest were standing in the mud by its edge, and some others were on the hard, dry, down-trodden earth around it. I'll go over this at 200 feet. You just wait and see.' 'Fine,' said Alan. It looks well, I'll use up the rest of this magazine on the approach.'

Alan did in fact use up the film, and the approach was at the right height; but then we hit the air above that hot patch. Alan had disappeared into the basket to fix the camera, but Douglas and I watched the ground sink rapidly below, and knew that the gentle hours were over. I read the altimeter casually, knowing only too well the sort of thing it would say, and saw the needle rise from 200 to 1,500 feet. The hot patch's thermal was having its effect. During this rise Alan had been down in the wicker bowels of our vehicle, and he rose at the end of it to see a world transformed. He clutched suddenly on to the rim, and his shoulders shrunk from vertigo. Neither Douglas nor I had bothered to point out the obvious to each other, but Alan had been unaware of it and had suffered accordingly. The world had no right to vanish like that. He had left it a mere 200 feet below. It was a third of a mile away when next he looked at it.

From then on the flight did not have its previous serenity. Intermediate landings were frequent, and sand was thrown out several pounds at a time rather than the gentle and occasional trickle of before. However, there was plenty of Serengeti still to come, even after the herd had gone, and we continued the flight, although more erratically. I remember a dead zebra down below, with the vultures swooping in from our height In a sense we were only seeing things as the vultures had seen them over the centuries. They have watched the life on the plains, and they have always been ready to scavenge them free from death. The vultures used outstretched wings on their effortless way down to the zebra, and only flapped them at the very end. We watched, and then prepared for another intermediate jolt of our own.

Eventually, despite the yearnings to go on, the flight had to come to a stop. Our path through the air had become more and more distorted, and the turbulence increasingly did what it liked with us. I achieved the best I could, but it was plainly not good enough and at the twentieth unintentional bounce I decided it was time to land. There was no hazard in the way, and the bounces were injuring nothing and no one; but they were extremely tangible tokens of the disturbances to come, and each was harder than the last. Besides, the herd was now behind us and we could imagine no rival that would compete with it. We hit the ground again, having dropped from 300 feet despite volumes of sand, and this time it hurt. The next occasion would definitely have to be the landing.

Douglas and Alan sorted out who would film it, because the man holding the cine needed both hands for that job, and the other man had to hang on to both the operator and the basket so that no one would leave it prematurely. I, meanwhile, prepared the valve and rip lines, blue for valve and red for rip. Instead of waiting for a downstream to take us earthwards, I valved a little and down we went in our own time.

It's coming. Hang on. I'm about to rip. Ripping now.' And it came. The basket creaked, but did not even bounce. Slowly it tipped on its side, and slowly we went with it. The coarse grass of the Serengeti brushed against our faces, and the flight was over. Jambo deflated herself in the proper manner, and all was finished. There were three shapes inside a basket, a lot of orange fabric, some netting - and nothing more. Traditionally, safely, beautifully, a balloon had expired. It was no longer a part of that most excellent canopy, the air. It had flown, but its journey was now ended. Its African days were over.

Extract ID: 3788

See also

Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Page Number: 176
Extract Date: 1970~

I knew I needed a balloon for filming

Before returning home, Alan was invited by his ballooning friend, Anthony Smith, to test the latest toy in the field of wingless aircraft. It was a hot-air balloon - far less dangerous and expensive than the hydrogen version he and Tony had flown over Africa. Alan made his first ascension from a village green in Hampshire: "As we lifted off I created a camera shot by cupping my hands around my eyes, limiting their field of vision as if they were a lens. I began by focusing on a daisy growing next to the basket. As we began our climb I could see people's legs, then all the village green. Pretty soon the entire village came into view and, after that, all of England. Before we landed I knew I needed a balloon for filming."

The difference between humdrum and interesting camerawork is often a matter of perspectives. Alan is always trying to find the novel angle, not just to be arresting, but to heighten the truth of the action. To film a herd of animals moving across a plain by holding the camera at eye level would have abused all the magical opportunities of Africa. Instead, Alan would bury the camera in their path to film their progress from a snake's point of view. In Alan's films, flowers are not just in bloom; they begin as petals and bloom before one's eyes. Similarly a bird's nest does not just appear; it is built on the screen, twig by twig, in a mere thirty seconds. The technology of this process is known as time-lapse photography, and it is a hallmark of Alan's films. Hot-air ballooning would add still another startling perspective to his Africa. It would also be the most hair-raising fun he had had in a long while.

Alan was to obtain the first hot-air balloon license ever issued in black Africa. His training period at Naivasha had not been all that easy: On several occasions he had performed "underwater" flying in the lake, once he had snagged around the telephone lines beside a road and on another occasion he had even "gift-wrapped" a thorn tree.

Extract ID: 4160

See also

Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Page Number: 178c
Extract Date: 1975

Ballooning for the public

Ever since Alan had learned to fly a balloon, nothing gave him greater pleasure than offering his friends joyrides: a dawn departure from the lawn in front of the house to the strains of "Up, Up and Away," a climb into clouds, a descent onto the roof of a neighbor's house to wake its occupants with a few bars of "Born Free," out across the lake to surprise a sleeping herd of hippos, up again to search for plains game and to open a bottle of champagne, and a finger-barking landing in an onion field just as the rescue crew, driving a Land Rover, sped into sight.

These flights were so successful that Alan decided to go public with lighter-than-air travel. For years he and Richard Leakey had been partners in a photographic safari company, and when it was disbanded in 1976 because of personal differences, he formed another partnership with the leading hotelier of the country to take tourists across the Masai-Mara Game Reserve in his balloon. "The fun was getting Balloon Safaris going - convincing the local aviation authorities that it was okay to have regular charter flights to a destination never certain until you got there."

Extract ID: 4163

See also

Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Page Number: 179-181
Extract Date: March 25, 1976

Balloon Safari over Kilimanjaro

Looming above the business enterprise was an even greater challenge. Kilimanjaro, at 19,340 feet, was the highest point in Africa; ergo, ballooning over the peak would represent the highest physical achievement in Africa, the ultimate seduction. Most people could have tossed aside this challenge but Alan presumably was taunted every time he saw the silver dome floating above late-afternoon clouds. By now he was a living reminder of other such dares. The index finger on his right hand was missing because of an indiscretion with a puff adder. A portion of his right buttock had been deeded to a leopard in the Serengeti, and most of the cartilage in his right knee was missing because he had once tried to set a Kenya record for motorcycle jumps. Now whenever he entered the Nairobi Hospital he was greeted as an old friend.

None of Alan's friends was terribly surprised to hear that he was preparing to be the first to balloon over the top of Kilimanjaro. Now that the wildebeest film was finished Alan had given himself four months before his next production. He gathered together some friends who were eager to serve as the ground crew and readied his balloon, Lengai, for the assault. From the lower slopes of the mountain, Alan calculated he would have to head away from the peak because of the winds, and then at about 24,000 feet, hope to catch an alternating wind that would carry him over the top. There the winds would be treacherous and the air nearly one-quarter its density at sea level.

The "shakedown" was spent test-flying the equipment, purchasing special gear and dickering with the meteorological service. One day the flight was off, another on, and much of Nairobi joined in speculating whether or not the madman would make it. In a society that warmly takes heart from others' misfortunes and rarely admits to heroes. Alan's apparent death wish had captured the imagination.

On the morning of March 25, 1976, the ground crew inflated the balloon on a farm to the west of the mountain. The clouds were down to the ground and nobody was laughing. Until the last moment there had been a question whether or not Joan could accompany Alan. It was generally agreed because of the load factor only one passenger could make the ascent. Joan had not said a word but it was clear that she would gladly have amputated an arm to meet the required weight. By now Alan was inside the basket firing the burner. He looked out at her. "You ready?" he asked, seconds before the balloon lifted off.

For the first half-hour of the flight Alan and Joan flew through dense cloud, never certain where they were bound. Just before they saw sunlight the flame on the burner blew out and for a frightening second Alan fumbled with matches to relight it.

Alan has coined an expression, "The Root Effect," to describe the illusion of the sides of the basket lowering, the higher the balloon climbs. At five thousand feet the basket's walls are at waist level, but at twenty thousand feet they seem little higher than one's ankles. Now as the balloon drifted over the top of Mawenzi Joan was behaving strangely. For a second Alan considered "The Root Effect." She was uncharacteristically snappy and clumsy. "What's the matter?" Alan asked. "Nothing," she shouted back. Suddenly he noticed the tube from her oxygen supply had gotten fouled. As fast as he could he reconnected it and soon she was her placid self.

Borne by a friendly monsoon, and with hardly a ripple, the basket sailed across the roof of Africa, its two occupants Phineas Foggs of a new sort. The altimeter registered 24,000 feet and directly below was the broken cone of Kilimanjaro. Old glaciers and the remains of last season's snows lay in pockets along the rims. Alan looked for climbers, but at nine on a March morning the mountain was deserted. The mountain and the sky made the balloon seem very small. When he and Joan had successfully flown over Kilimanjaro, they were forced to make a landing in then hostile Tanzania. Minutes after their moment of triumph, both Roots were arrested as "astronaut spies."

Of all Alan's films, the one-hour special about his balloon exploits seems the most flawed, possibly because he was dealing with humans (particularly himself) instead of animals. The humor that abounds in his life seemed out of context in the film, and at times the commentary runs to unmitigated conceit: "Flying a balloon takes a bit of getting used to - but Alan Root is one of those naturally well-coordinated people who gets the hang of this sort of thing very quickly. . . ." On television ‘Balloon Safari’ seemed an uneven pastiche, but when it is shown at the farmhouse on Lake Naivasha it is colorful and very funny. It seems to be an indulgence, an amusement for his friends. "Precisely," Alan admits today, "it's a home movie."

Extract ID: 4164

external link

See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 19f
Extract Date: 1996 08 Jul

Ballooning

Long before the sun rises, Tracy Robb and I have left camp to prepare her balloon. The clients arrive and we are airborne drifting across the Serengeti. From up here, the Serengeti comes alive. It is covered with animals. On the ground, the wind is from the south, and as we increase in altitude the wind comes from the east. The higher we go the more we turn to the left. This is how she steers. In the northern hemisphere it is the opposite; you will turn to the right with height. Tracy is from South Africa, and ballooning is her passion. I find my eyes are fixed to the ground as we drift along. The wildlife below is looking up at us, not knowing whether to watch or run as we pass.

Back on the ground, I am starting to notice that there are more female researchers than male researchers here. I feel a little bit like a Thompson's gazelle surrounded by cheetahs, and I am not sure that I am very comfortable about it. This surprises me, because I would have imagined that I wouldn't mind the attention, but this is different. I think males naturally like to hunt their prey or their mates, but they aren't so keen to have it the other way around. I find myself trying to avoid places and situations where I might be hunted. This is certainly a new experience for me, and I soon find security with John wildebeest.

John tells me that before the Drought of 1993, there were 1.6 million wildebeest. Now, there are .9 million. There are a quarter million zebra and a half million Thompson's gazelle. John conducts his research by putting grass on a one meter square platform sled and dragging it up to a group of gazelle. He doesn't stop his vehicle, so as not to frighten the gazelle, but he releases the sled. The idea is that the gazelle will then come up and feed off the sled. He can then compare the weight of the grass before and after they have fed. So far this hasn't worked, because the gazelle haven't fed of the platform, but John remains optimistic.

Late in the afternoon, I sit east of Seronera and watch the sun set over the horizon. After the sun goes down, the sky turns a brilliant red as the sun shines up on the base of the clouds. Normally, the sun sets quite quickly along the equator, but this red glow continues for a full 15 minutes as the surrounding darkness envelopes me. This is taking far too long. I study this until I become convinced that I have made a great discovery. The sun must surely be reflecting off of Lake Victoria like a mirror and bouncing back up into the sky. I cannot imagine any other explanation for what I am seeing, but unfortunately no one thinks this is possible.

Extract ID: 3661

external link

See also

Busemeyer, Karl Ludwig (Mucky) Log-Book about an Airship-Expedition to Tanzania
Page Number: 03

GEFA-FLUG has been using airships for more than 15 years

Germany has been traditionally the country of airships at the beginning of our century. Count von Zeppelin as „the father of airships" is still well known all over the world. The reasons why we do not see many airships today is, that „heavier than air" aircrafts have advantages like speed and weather resistance. There is a cynical reason as well. Airships are very peaceful tools and can not be used for military purposes, because they are slow and built out of light and vulnerable materials and have therefore not been pushed forward over the last decades. For a couple of years now, we have heard of a come back of Zeppelin-airships built at Lake Constance in Germany. There is however another airship manufacturing company in Germany who builds hotair-airships for quite some years now and with quite some success. The company´s name is GEFA-FLUG and it lives in the most western part of Germany, in Aachen.

GEFA-FLUG has been using airships for more than 15 years as camera platforms for archaeological and environmental survey projects (universities and environmental organisations like WWF, NABU, DMT, Greenpeace) and wild life filming in more than a dozen countries. Airships have advantages over the ordinary aircraft and the helicopter. They can fly very slow (ordinary aircraft can not), they can hover over a given spot - like a helicopter – but without disturbing the surface underneath.They have no rotor downwash because they hover due to their lift of hot air. It is however to be taken into consideration, that this type of airship is weather dependent, similar to a hotair balloon.

GEFA-FLUG´s managing director is Karl-Ludwig (Mucky) Busemeyer, for more than 35 years dreaming to use airships not as large billboards but as camera carriers. One of his deams for many years was to fly an airship in the Serengeti on the footprints of father and son Grzimek, two famous german zoologists who worked out in Tanzania to survey the big heards of wildebeests and zebras. They used a single engined aeroplane in 1958 and the outcome was an oscar-prized film and a bestseller-book „Serengeti shall not die“. It happened that Alan Root, legendary pioneering balloonist out in Kenia for more than three decades (we all know Antony Smith´s books: „Throw out two hands“) was the main cameraman of father and son Grzimek in 1958 and 1959.

Mucky Busemeyer´s idea was to get various aspects of the old Grzimek project combined to a new story and producing a TV documentry aout it, flying at Grzimek´s locations, meeting up with their comrades but using an airship this time instead of a light aeroplane.

Extract ID: 5047

external link

See also

Busemeyer, Karl Ludwig (Mucky) Log-Book about an Airship-Expedition to Tanzania
Page Number: 05
Extract Date: 1998

The Serengeti Airship AS 105GD

Length: 41.0 m

Diameter: 12.8 m

Volume 105.000 ft³

Envelope weight 200 kg

Gondola dry weight 270 kg

Max. take off weight 850 kgs

Max speed: 40 km/h

Engine: Rotax 52 Hp

max. flight duration: 1.5 hrs (two people on board)

means of lift: hot air, max 127° C

max. windspeed at groundlevel 10 knots

Extract ID: 5049

external link

See also

Busemeyer, Karl Ludwig (Mucky) Log-Book about an Airship-Expedition to Tanzania
Page Number: 08
Extract Date: 28 1 98

Searching for a butane adaptor

The good news is that Tanzanian customs released the airship, the bad news is that all our adapters to refill our tanks from Tanzanian household cylinders are of the wrong type. This is at least the tenth project where this has happened and it is always very frustrating, especially as we had spent a lot of time sorting adapters out before we left. There's always an excuse; this time it was the introduction of a brand new Portuguese type, but during our reconnaissance trip we had seen good old UK-style cylinders. Eventually we found one, but it was not really built to let high quantities of butane through and it took hours before all six tanks were full. We had no more success with the CO2 regulator which, although being brand new and locally bought, did not fit the Tanzanian cylinders, but some finely engineered 'German tools' soon got both parts fitting! We had never pressurised butane with CO2, and all the bubbling in the cylinder seemed a bit strange - but without doubt, the burners seem to be as powerful as they are at home…

Extract ID: 5052

external link

See also

The Electronic Telegraph
Extract Author: Paul Harris
Extract Date: 2000 July 13

British pilot killed as Kenyan safari balloon catches fire

Paul Harris in Nairobi

A BRITISH pilot was killed yesterday and three American tourists were injured after their hot-air balloon caught fire in the Masai Mara game park in Kenya.

There were conflicting accounts of what occurred. One report said the balloon was about to land when it burst into flames; but Transworld Safaris, the balloon tour operator, said that it was on the verge of taking off at just after 6am when disaster struck.

The pilot had lived in East Africa for several years flying Balloons in Kenya and northern Tanzania before joining Transworld a few months ago. No details will be released about him until his family has been informed. His body has been taken to a mortuary in the town of Narok, the main tourist base for the Masai Mara.

Rufus Drabble, a spokesman for the British High Commission in Nairobi, said the Briton had just taken up permanent residency in Kenya and efforts were being made to trace relatives in Britain. The accident happened when an explosion was triggered in the balloon's burners.

The basket and balloon fabric quickly became engulfed in flame. Nancy Maksud, of the African Medical Research Foundation which flew the seven injured to hospital in Nairobi, said: 'It was about to take off when it exploded and caught fire.'

A group of Kenyan workers tried to rescue the occupants, helping to haul the three tourists from the fire, but they were too late to save the pilot. Two of the workers were injured as well as two Kenyan balloon crew members.

The balloon was based at the Sarova camp in the south-east of the vast reserve, home to lions, giraffe and elephants that attract tens of thousands of visitors each year. The causes of the explosion are not yet known. Officials from the company flew to the site yesterday morning to sift the smouldering wreckage for clues to the source of the disaster.

Balloon trips to view game over the plains of the Masai Mara are a popular diversion for many tourists. Often visitors will spend several hours drifting silently through the air, watching the sun rise and spotting wildlife below them, before having a champagne breakfast in the bush.

A Transworld spokesman said the accident was the first of its kind to affect the company. He said: 'Sometimes you can get high winds at altitude and have to come down quickly and land with a jolt. But we have never had anything like this before.'

Extract ID: 1513

See also

Arusha Times
Extract Author: Valentine Marc Nkwame
Page Number: 258
Extract Date: 22 Feb 2003

Dutch balloon team flies over Kilimanjaro on hot air balloon

.. ..

This week, a Dutch balloon team has claimed its share of the legend by flying over Kilimanjaro with a hot air balloon.

Speaking in Arusha last weekend, the project leader, Karel Abbenes said the effort was also going to raise money for Mount Kilimanjaro cleaning campaign.

The money to be invested in cleaning up the giant land feature has been donated by a Dutch company named, Afvalverwerking Reijnmond (AVR) which specializes in ecological waste assimilation.

Abbenes and his co-pilot Willem Hijink have used the latest technological, stealth burner to pump hot air into their balloon as it is noiseless and thus can’t scare animals.

Nobody has ever attempted this undertaking before and the two balloon pilots weren’t just about to take any chances on that, so they employed two separate unit burners each with its three containers of gas.

The Royal Dutch Airline (KLM) supplied the team with regular weather reports from its KIA bound, Amsterdam flights and Dar es salaam bound KIA flights.

The fly over was done from the east side of the mountain towards the Moshi direction with a team of a Dutch Television camera crew filming the adventure.

At Moshi, the balloon team presented the cheque of "Clean up" money to the Kilimanjaro National Parks (KINAPA) authorities.

Local sponsors of the "Kilimanjaro Expedition 2003" include JMT African Heart Expeditions Limited, Bamakambi Safari Lodge and Shoprite Supermarket of Arusha.

Extract ID: 3915
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